I think part of the reason there isn't a lot of respect for teaching as a 'profession' is because when it's done well by someone, it looks easy and fun.
My father was a business executive who left for work at 6:30 in the morning, commuted into NYC, worked ten hours, got home at 6:30 at night - worked with cut-throat business types all day doing I don't even know what really.
I can remember spending Saturdays in NYC with my mother and siblings at the Bronx zoo or the Statue of Liberty or Cony Island and then meeting my dad in Chinatown for dinner because he'd have had to work all day on a Saturday too.
Yeah - all the hard work paid off and he did end up experiencing a lot of perks (world travel, great salary, great pension package) - but at the time - I think he saw it as a grind.
So he has a friend who's a professor of archeology. This guy is teaching three classes a semester, having a few office hours, doing research in an area he loved and going on digs in Jerusalem. My father used to make all sorts of digs at him like, 'Oh...yeah...must be hard, slaving away in that lecture hall (talking) six or seven hours a week'...
I think he was jealous. Because he was an intellectually curious and intuitive person who loved to learn himself - but he'd gotten himself stuck in this other path. Not that he didn't like his job and wasn't good at it - he was. But in his heart - I think he'd rather have been a teacher.
And then when I became a teacher, and other teachers would go on strike and stuff he'd say, 'How can you guys call yourselves professionals and strike? Professionals don't strike. What the heck do you people want? You work a six hour day ten months of the year? What more could you ask?'
Me, as a teacher, I think it (as a profession) is increasingly disrespected because people no longer value the process of education - they only want the product or result- what will this get me? How much money will I be able to make having been taught this little nugget of information?
Honestly, I don't care if my son is a lifeguard on a Croatian beach (which is his new dream, along with being on the ski patrol at Whistler mountain)- as long as he reads and is an educated lifeguard or ski patrol man and is interesting to talk to.
In fact, if he achieves those dreams in his life - I'll be envious of him - until I join the peace corps and go to live in Africa or something.
I tell my students all the time, when I'm teaching them some bit of math they can't picture themselves using and ask what the purpose of it is - 'It's to make you a more informed, more facile thinking person who knows more than you used to know. It's to help oil the cogs of your brain and get it working smoother. Is that not valuable to you?'
But I love being a teacher and I've never felt particularly disrespected. Even my father had to admit I was smart for picking a profession I could have fun at and love and do in six hour days ten months a year.
And the perks are indescribable. Last week I got a note from a Chinese man, Chen, who is just learning how to write English. He can speak it okay, read it okay - now he wants to learn to write it.
He said, 'Rebecca - I love you very much beacuse you is teching me so well. I love you dog is well.' (sic)
(I had brought in a picture of my dog because we were having a multicultural discussion about dogs as pets as compared to dogs as food).
How much outside respect or money is that worth ? Nothing to me. I wouldn't trade it for a million dollars.